Crossovers are the hottest segment in the automotive industry today thanks to solid fuel economy, practicality and bad-weather driving security. And while that popularity means the field is downright dizzying, there are quite a few excellent options from all corners of the earth. GP’s Octane crew drove five solid examples and came away with loads of insight on what the CUV market has to offer.
The Blue Oval gets Ballsy
The most devilishly good detail in the 2015 Ford F-150 is more than skin deep. In fact, it sits just below the no doubt soon-to-be scuffed paint job. You see, Ford has made its boldest move in decades by building their flagship truck’s body out of aluminum instead of tried-and-true steel. It’s move that’s both expected because of the environmental trend and pioneering due to the vehicle in which Ford has chosen to make the paradigm shift.
Making Detroit Shine
The North American International Auto Show is one of our favorite events of the year. It’s a time when just about every carmaker descends on Detroit, and the moment is a golden one. Picture it with us: gleaming steeds — SUVs, sports cars, sedans, pickups and more — as far as the eye can see, a field that’s tough to whittle down to our favorites. But we’ve done just that with these ten beauties, the best of NAIAS.
The gifts that keep on giving
Just about every morning, before our cup of joe, we slap ourselves as a reminder of how lucky we are to drive some of the best cars in the world and get paid for it. 2013 was another year of stupendous privileges, with wheel time in Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Land Rovers, Bentleys, Rolls-Royces, Porsches, Jaguars, Mercedes-Benzes, Audis, BMWs, Aston Martins and more. We’ve been the beneficiaries of a huge upswing in the automotive marketplace in terms of style, quality and driving excitement through virtually all segments. And you know what that means: 2014 should prove to be even better.
Here are the cars we most covet for the new year, each one a standout in its segment by virtue of its quality, technology, design, driving experience or all of the above. In a stellar field, these are the ones that stir the petrol in our veins the most. As we embark on a new year, here’s a toast to what should be an incredible 2014 on the digital pages of Octane.
A father-and-son Mustang project car
My dad and I are alike in a lot of ways — the way we fall asleep in chairs and lose our hair, for instance — but our love of cars has bound us for as long as I can remember. Not long ago I sent my dad a handful of questions about what makes me a car guy and asked him to write quick responses; I got back six pages. (Dad and I also like to tell stories.) And so I realized this story is best told in tandem, with excerpts of his answers interspersed with my own. Together, they are the story of our similarities and our passions, and of the car that is, as my dad put it, “a mild street rod imported from the junction” of the two of us.
Charmed by the snake
A perfect homage to the spirit of Ford’s and Shelby’s original GT 500, the 2014 model takes “steroidal” to a whole new level. Starting at only $54,800, this savage serpent uses all 662 of its horses to hit 202 miles per hour at full speed, though you need only start the engine once to believe it’s capable of extreme and endless thrills. It’s capable of eating pavement for breakfast, lunch and dinner but also perfectly happy cruising around town; just be prepared for rubberneckers.
New Brut Scents Your granddad swore by his Brut products — old standbys, unchanged and reliable for years and years (over 40, actually). Now Brut is launching new scents and a new, modern look. Black Ice, an ambery and aromatic scent, will launch alongside the spicy, grapefruity Blue Wave in January, but worry not —…
Sleighs are for losers
You’re an hour late to the Christmas get-together, but not because that red velvet blazer you love so much is nowhere to be found. No, instead you’re trapped in a snowdrift in your vintage AMC Gremlin. No fruitcake for you. You could’ve fared better this holiday season with some better wheels. May we suggest some truly treaded steeds for your hapless self?
Supercars and sports cars are largely out of reach for the average human, much to our chagrin. But there’s great news for piston-lovers everywhere, too: hot hatches are here to stay, largely due to earth-bound prices, impressive speed in spite of their smaller displacement engines, and everyday practicality that dwarfs many sedans. The 2013 Ford Focus ST ($23,700) is the new hot hatch king, and for good reason. The 252 hp 2.0-liter 4-cylinder EcoBoost engine and sport-tuned suspension ensure it’s fast in the straights and in the curves, and the sublime steering ups the pleasure quotient even further. Plus, it just looks fast. The hard part is stepping out of it after a spirited drive.
Fall for all of them
The end of the summer doesn’t mean that the best driving months are behind us. With the arrival of fall comes cooler temperatures, the rainbow of foliage colors and fewer vacationers on the open roads — all reasons to open up the throttle. But all leaf-scatterers are not created equal. Some have drop-tops for feeling the crisp air zip by your ears and others want to blast snaking backroads; still others will get you, your gear and your family to the annual fall camping spot. These ten cars — our favorites for taking fall driving to the next level — can do it all. If you’re lucky enough to drive one, your winter doldrums just got put on hold.
We're not gonna take it
Just about every car manufacturer has had its “car of shame” at one point or another. The names are easily recognizeable and are usually followed by a full-body cringe: AMC Gremlin, Renault Fuego, Chevy Citation, Oldsmobile Achieva, Volkswagen Fox, Geo Metro, Nissan Pulsar, Cadillac Cimarron, Pontiac Aztek, Ford Festiva, Chrysler PT Cruiser. To our everlasting chagrin, many of the cars we’d rather not have driven have come from right here in America. But things have been improving. Improving a lot, in fact. American cars today are better built and better designed at just about every level, and they’re even competitive with once out-of-reach European performance cars.
More beautiful beasts of burden
Baseball, apple pie and trucks: all iconic, savory slices of Americana. The urban cowboy may have given the pickup a bad rap, but don’t let that sour the segment. These ain’t your granddad’s haulers. No sir, the trucks of today have taken fuel efficiency to an all-time high in the segment, for starters, and have added touches of interior and exterior class that leave little to be desired, even when compared against luxury makers.
Yes, the beloved truck has changed, but it remains grounded in its roots as a tree-stump-puller. Indeed, the core functionality of the pickup truck has remained nearly unchanged through the years — that is, it still has the ability to blast copious amounts of diesel exhaust over smug, hybrid drivers. We found time to drive and rate the five best full-sized models on the market. Which one you choose is between you and your payload.
Pages of legends
Every man’s library should consist of great books. Of course, regardless of how many classics you’ve read, if you’re a devotee of automobilia, your shelves should also house some truly great car books. We take a look at some of the best automotive books around in hopes that you’ll get your hands on some of them, park yourself in a comfy chair and spend a weekend afternoon imagining the sights, sounds and smells of great motoring.
It truly is a party
Though the Ford Fiesta (not to be confused with the midget-special Ford Festiva) has been around since 1976, it wasn’t available stateside until 2011. Back then, we enjoyed the original 1.6-liter 120 hp inline four cylinder hatch but longed for more pep. Obviously the engineers behind the Shelby GT500 and the F150 Raptor SVT follow Gear Patrol closely, because they answered our need for more zip with the 2014 Ford Fiesta ST ($22,000).
After twelve generations of model updates, the Ford SVT Raptor is arguably the most tenacious version of the Blue oval’s numerous F-150 iterations. Truly testing this machine called for something more than a few days piddling around Los Angeles, so when when we were invited to go attend the one-day Raptor Assault School at Miller Motorsports Park in the wide open Utah countryside we moved quicker than a rattle snake on the floor of a country line dance. What we drove was an out-of-the box, insanely capable machine able to run, jump and crawl over just about anything in its path.
Conquering the beast
We spent a full day at the Ford Racing F-150 SVT Raptor Assault School at Miller Motorsports Park in Toole, Utah, learning the finer points of hill climbing, mixed terrain blasts and bona-fide offroading, all the while tossing the F-150 Raptor so hard that its dusty rooster tails could be seen from space. Read on to watch the GP Short and to find out more about our upcoming feature.
Carrera Foldable Helmet This biking helmet is for you if (a) you take part in a two-wheel commute in the city, where storage space is at a premium, and/or (b) you have a fat head (okay, any size head is fine). The frame expands and contracts for a space saving stowage; inside, an elastic system…
Time to Drive
Wheels and gears, second hands and tach needles, power trains and power reserves. Men have always been fascinated by time, speed, accuracy and power — and the beautiful combination of high-end timepieces and exotic roadgoing automobiles captures these obsessions appropriately. And whether the watch of choice is used to measure lap splits or to simply echo the same kind of quality and heritage as his car, you can be assured that careful time was taken to select both. We match up some of the best in timekeeping and automobilia in Gear Patrol style.
It's hot to hatch
In the States, we know that size still matters. And just like dinner portions, Americans love their bigger cars and trucks. But times, they are a changin’, and the current crop of hatchbacks just goes to show that manufacturers are putting in a lot more thought, time and money into developing small cars that work big. Driving a hatchback no longer makes you look like you were holding the door when they were handing out real cars. The combination of solid styling, creature comforts and great fuel economy (and, sometimes. wickedly good performance) has young and old alike turning to 5-doors options. We drove five of the best for a month and came away with a new appreciation for the hot hatch.
Starpower trumps horsepower
Weeding through Hollywood’s entire crop of iconic movie cars in the hopes of arriving at an agreed upon best of list is like trying to choose the sexiest Victoria’s Secret model — it can be grueling work, but the research isn’t exactly painful. Car guys are a picky lot, especially when looking to the silver screen: Some go weak in the knees when they hear an American V8 rumble to life slightly out of frame, while others are gaga for the svelte silhouette of a European exotic on a twisty backdrop. A select few believe the essential chase scene is the deciding factor, while yet another breed is only happy when the director has chosen an “appropriate” vehicle for the character driving, regardless of whether the movie was even watchable.
The GP Team’s collection of petrolheads put all of these variables into play, entered into
deep philosophical debate and eventually agreed to disagree so we could present you with our picks for the best movie cars ever. Gentlemen, start your arguing engines!
The 10 That Got Away
Some concept cars are the stuff of dreams, and some make a justified beeline for the crusher. But then there are the truly glorious ones: the concepts built just for show, never meant to be anything more than the Paris runway model of the automotive world, or those lucky few that see their design elements actually influence production cars, even if they themselves never make it to the street. Tragically, for many of the best, somewhere between an auto show debut and the fevered, hopeful dreams of auto enthusiasts, some kind of childhood-hating shutdown switch gets flicked by faceless bean counters. In honor of the fallen, we take a look at 10 of the best concept cars that only ever got to lay rubber on the auto show floor.
What Ford has done in the few years is nothing short of brand reinvention. A new focus on technology and consolidation of their various models sold globally and in the States has left many a test driver of a new Focus, Fiesta, Fusion or Escape asking “Is this really a Ford?” The 2013 Focus ST ($24,000 Base) continues this leave-drivers-impressed trend. We take a quick spin.
A new generation of four-doors
Family sedans tend to be the automotive equivalent of Valium (minivans are horse tranquilizers, in case you were wondering), but times have changed. Family men no longer need to sacrifice
too much in the way of driving excitement and looks in order to transport tykes and trikes. We get it. You’d rather be doing some tire ripping, engine-snorting performance runs on your way to drop off your son at school. Still, we’ve compiled our list of “family sedans” that take let you perform your dad duties with aplomb while still allowing you more than a modicum of manly fun.
Trucks. Sure, they’re unnecessary for most of the population, borderline politically incorrect in some circles, and sort of an unnatural presence in the average, mostly-urban lifestyle. But we can’t stop loving pickups. The pickup is about as American as it gets, and until your cute little crossover can haul a boat and a couch simultaneously — in the snow — we’re quite content to keep ‘em around, thanks. This year’s new models all showcase a lot of brawn, and even toss in a bit of green to go with it
Bold moves from the Blue Oval
And you thought trucks were just a waste of space and gas. The urban cowboy in us says otherwise, as does Ford, with their newly announced Ford Atlas Concept, a bold new face in the pickup truck race. Looking like an angry four-wheeled bank vault, the Atlas shows us what the next generation F-150 could…
Putting the Town Car days in the rear view
For city slickers, Lincoln is the company car to a midtown meeting. The recently discontinued Town Car was easily the most recognizable Lincoln: the car of choice for livery cab drivers and Warren Buffett. This wasn’t sustainable. Not too long ago, parent company Ford and primary competitor Cadillac faced a similar problem. How do you…
Call it a comeback
In America, the hatchback has long fought an uphill battle — garnering the scorn and disdain of image conscious buyers who prefer the look of a sedan or coupe. The thing is, regardless of mass public opinion, we think hatchbacks are great, especially on smaller vehicles where the proportions, engineering and design seem to jive…
Peer into the future, without the crystal ball
We kicked off 2012 by visiting not-so-beautiful Las Vegas to attend CES, with the hope of getting a head start on the exciting new products that will launch over the coming year. While we’ll continue to highlight gadgets revealed there on a regular basis, one of the best parts about being on the ground at…
If train A leaves the station at...
According to estimates there are 800 million cars on the road today. By 2050 it will approach between 2 and 4 billion with 70% of those cars existing in cities. Needless to say, automakers — and city planners alike — are scrambling to develop new and more efficient ways to get around. One company, Ford,…
We have a big soft spot for pick-up trucks. Not just because they represent so much of what America is and how we get work done, but the fact that when it comes to two-axle haulers, no one does a full-size pickup like the U S of A. Even as fuel prices have rocketed and…